Today marks my tenth Trans Day of Remembrance with The Trevor Project, but within our broader movement, this important day dates back to 1999. It was started by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a trans activist, as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a trans woman who had been killed in 1998. Today, it has grown into a global observance that serves as a stark reminder of the continuous struggle for trans rights and acceptance.
As a trans woman who has found so much joy, acceptance, and peace this year, it feels especially important for me to take time today to reflect on all the trans folks who have come before me; to hold each and every trans and nonbinary thread in our beautiful tapestry, thanking them for making it more beautiful and more powerful to be yourself instead of being what others tell you to be.
On November 5 I celebrated my first ever Trans Parent Day, not just as a Trans woman myself but also as the parent of a trans teenager. I realized I am the rare double-trans-parent. This past Trans Awareness Week, November 13-17, was such a special week for me personally. It comes at the end of a year where I finally was able to change my legal documents, share my new name and step more fully into my truth. My husband and I expanded our family with an amazing son who is one of the most remarkable trans people I know. He is currently looking forward to getting his driving learner’s permit (help us all). I am going to be celebrating my first ever New Year’s Eve as Nova Bright-Williams (a name I chose for myself). I already have my dress picked out.
There has been so much to be grateful for this year, but a particular thought has echoed through my heart over and over again: so many trans and nonbinary folks have come before me, so many more will come after me, but so many never got the chance to shine fully in their truth and on their terms.
Today, November 20, is the day we focus on those who didn’t get the chance to finish their story on their own path in their own truth. On this day, we commemorate too many lives lost. This year has been particularly trying, with an alarming number of trans and gender non-conforming folks tragically losing their lives. Each year the Human Rights Campaign keeps a record of those trans and non-binary folks who have been killed in the US. This record is by no means exhaustive but it is an important way to continue to raise awareness while remembering those we have lost. 88% of victims were people of color. 52% were black-trans women. 72% were killed with a gun. Almost half of them were misgendered by authorities or the press after their murder.
Though these members of our chosen family are no longer with us, their memory must live on and continue to inspire us to tear down the systems that oppress — like white supremacy, patriarchy, transphobia and heteronormativity — and build up a more inclusive and accepting world. Though it shouldn’t have to, their memory propels us to keep fighting to make the world a better-safer place for trans and nonbinary people today, tomorrow, and forevermore.
On this Trans Day of Remembrance, let’s recommit to our collective mission to end hatred, violence, and discrimination against ALL trans and nonbinary people. The lives we remember today, and the many more that go unreported or unrecognized, reinforce the urgent need for our collective work.
As we reflect, remember, and look forward, make sure that your efforts continue to light the way toward a better, more inclusive future.
With solemn gratitude,